Galway 2020 – Capital of Culture

Ballinasloe - @declancolohanphotography
Galway 2020

Wonder Works were approached by Artichoke, the Creative Directors for the Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture with a challenging brief; to produce a spectacular Opening Ceremony on the West Coast of Ireland in February and to link the county of Galway and the City together with a Fire Tour across 6 towns.

Wonder Works delivered the full production including world class team, creative development, volunteer recruitment, design work and all creative and technical elements.
Creative Producer Philippa Lowe, Technical Producer Rebekah Hanbury, Show Director Steve Boyd, Musical Director David Munro and Technical Director Dave Williams and their supporting teams worked tirelessly to deliver a truly memorable fire tour.
The Opening Ceremony was sadly cancelled due to the extreme weather caused by Storm Ciara, however the feedback from both client and community was exceptionally positive.

Artichoke worked with Wonder Works as part of our role within the Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture project. We commissioned Piers and his team to imagine an outdoor Opening Ceremony in this city on the furthest edge of Europe swept by winds and storms as the Atlantic rushes in. In the event, Wonder Works captured the hearts of all who were involved in the project. Flamboyant performers were recruited alongside bemused first-timers to form the huge community cast; suppliers and contractors were engaged to help create a lavish ceremony, the like of which had never been seen in Ireland before.

Throughout the process, Wonder Works worked calmly and with immense good humour to solve the many problems this challenging situation threw up. The whole team was open, professional and enormously creative, flexing each time a changing set of circumstances arose. Nothing was too daunting; every obstacle could be overcome whether financial, logistical or creative. Artichoke learnt a lot from the experience of working with this extraordinary company. We had the best time and can’t wait to do it all over again. – Helen Marriage – Artistic Director / CEO – Artichoke

Galway 2020’s event year followed the Celtic Calendar and our initial ideas centred around Imbolc; the renewal of all things and a light of fire emerging from the darkness of winter; communities coming together with a Céad míle fáilte; a hundred thousand welcomes.
The countryside has always fed the city of Galway, either through the provision of turf, wool, food & livestock and the city & countryside worked as one.
To celebrate this connection, Wonder Works devised a concept of seven fire spheres which would tell each town’s story. The chosen towns were Clifden, An Spidéal, Tuam, Ballinasloe, Portumna, Athenry & Galway.

Artist Jacqueline Pyle was commissioned by Wonder Works to design each fire sphere. She spent time in Ireland, drawing, documenting and speaking to those who lived in the towns to gather tales and memories.
A community cast from each town were recruited to become drummers, torch bearers and singers – performing in each Fire Tour performance.
Every town has a river and each sphere reflects their rivers along the base of the sphere. Placed together, the rivers connect to one another in unity. Within the sphere also, is a poem embedded into the river which was each written by poets’ native to each town.
The designs were then transposed onto the 2m spheres, constructed by 2m steel dishes and painstakingly crafted by hand by the “Fire Pit Company” in Cambridgeshire.

The Fire Festival began in Clifden on Sunday 02 February, opening with a local youth band NØÖV, followed by the procession & the sphere’s poem read aloud by the poet. Hundreds of people gathered each night to watch the procession of drummers and torch bearers and once lit, the festival finishing with a spectacular white & gold firework display, closing the night with the band, Rofi James. The Fire Festival finished on Friday 07 February in Athenry.

Galway 2020 – The story of the spheres.